Arab and international interests in Libya


Islam has always been divided into two major factions: the Shiites in power in territories ranging from ancient Persia to the Mediterranean, passing through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and the Sunnis, the majority, who dominate in North Africa, the Middle East in the Gulf area Persian.

Sunnis are currently divided into Saudi Wahhabites, Saudi-trained Salafists who have developed jihadist terrorism and the Muslim Brotherhood originating in Egypt. They are also radical, but they are at odds with the Saudis and have more pragmatic and political connotations. They enjoy the protection of Turkey and Qatar and in part of Tunisia, protection that extends even as far as the Palestinian territories, especially if controlled by Hamas, while they are outlawed as said in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but also in Bahrain, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates.

The Libyan territory today is the scene of a further showdown between factions,which are vying for the political and religious hegemony of the Arab world. The interests at stake are economic, particularly related to oil fields, but also geopolitical.

Saudi Arabia, as it succeeded with Egypt a few years ago, is attempting religious and political control of Libya to create a barrier to the advance of Shiites and the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime, the situation in the Libyan chessboard, which is contested between tribes and foreign interests, has progressively become more complicated.

Fayez al-Serraj,an expert in political mediation who has previously held institutional positions in Gaddafi's government, is in power in the West. Al-Serraj heads the fragile Government of National Accord (GNA), which was wanted by the UN and supported by much of the international community.

On the other side of the country, in the east, the authority belongs to Marshal KhalifaHaftar, head of a small but strong personal army: the Libyan National Army.

Khalifa Haftar in 2014 distinguished himself for liberating Benghazi from the presence of Salafist jihadist-inspired Islamist militias, derived from the terrorist fringes of Al Qaeda and ISIS.

Haftar's operations to counter radical movements have progressively increased his credibility and international political influence.

His military campaign is now politically and ideologically directed against the Muslim Brotherhood and in favor of Saudi WahhabiIslam. In his military offensives, Haftar has the support of both Egyptian President al-Sisi and the United Arab Emirates and of course Saudi Arabia.

If Haftar prevails in Libya, Saudi Arabia could enjoy further strategic position, in addition to that guaranteed by the Egyptian government, the United Arab Emirates, and countries under U.S. influence, including Israel.

But several non-Arab countries are involved in the Libyan crisis. On April 24, the US announced Trump's support for Haftar. It could not have been otherwise seen in the Saudi interests. American support for Haftar also became apparent at the UN, when the United States abruptly began to obstruct the approval of the British resolution condemning Haftar. Trump's choice risks giving Emmanuel Macron's France a gift. 

France, which has always been pro-Saudi and interested in Libyan oil fields, is pressing for Haftar to be recognized as a major player in the process of national reconciliation. 

According to the Guardian's reconstruction, Trump would succumb to pressure from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, two countries that have long supported Haftar, to gain their support in return for the peace plan between Israel and Palestine promoted by the son-in-law of the President. But it is more likely a direct interest in the oil and military aspects of Saudi Arabia, let us not forget the war in Yemen where the Saudis lead a coalition of various Arab and non-Arab countries.

Returning to Libya for us Italians its stability is a decisive issue in particular with regard to migration flows but also to maintain the energy supplies that belong to Eni. Italy, as it usually proceeds in foreign policy, is inclined to negotiate, in dialogue with both sides. But Trump's moves, which at first seemed to support the work of Italian mediation, now turn out to have an opposite meaning: in essence we, but also the United Nations, are cut off from the games.  

Russia also acts in a two-pronged manner. On the one hand, he supports Haftar through the informal use of the Wagner Group mercenaries. On the other hand, dialogue with al-Serraj is open, as demonstrated by the recent visit to Moscow of Khaled al-Mishri, president of the High Council and a man strongly invited to Haftar, because of his long time in the Muslim Brotherhood.

Turkey and Qatar, close to the Muslim Brotherhood, are in support of Fayez al-Sarraj and the Government of National Accord (GNA), as said in contrast to the Saudis and its allies.

 The international community, to this day, therefore remains divided, also having to face the resulting difficulties of the Tribal-type structure of Libyan families, and the UN seems incapable of exerting decisive pressure on the parties involved. But instability in the Middle East will never be resolved as long as there are energy, military and migratory interests to be used to move the centers of power. 

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